Are dumped pet terrapins a threat to Lincoln wildlife?

Experts have suggested new laws could lead to an influx of dumped pet terrapins – threatening local wildlife as they invade waterways.

As previously reported, a terrapin was spotted at around 3pm on Wednesday, May 10 near Stamp End in Lincoln. While an interesting sight, the reptile’s appearance sparked concern on social media.

According to new EU laws, which were brought in in August 2016, it is now illegal to breed, sell or trade terrapins in any way.

Academics are warning that confusion over ownership laws and the lack of education means many are being dumped in local waterways.

The following popular pet species are included in the list naming them as a threat to the ecosystem:

  • The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elgans)
  • The yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta)
  • The Cumberland slider (Trachemys scripta troostii)

People who own these species aren’t breaking the law, however restrictions on trade mean some who no longer want to keep the animals are resorting to abandoning them.

Dr (c) Clare Barnard, PhD Student in Life Sciences (Conservation) at the Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Adaptations at the University of Lincoln told The Lincolnite: “This species recently came under new controls and can no longer be bred, sold or traded in any way.

“Ownership is now controlled by law, if an owner can no longer keep their pet they must either surrender it to an animal sanctuary (who must then keep it for the rest of its natural life) or have it humanely euthanised.

Experts are now suggesting that this new law may see an increase in sightings in Lincoln as residents unable to breed them dump them – which is also illegal.

Clare added: “This species and those related to it have been a worrying presence in our water ways for some years where they predate native species, even taking young waterfowl!

“I fear that with these changes in the law we will only see more of them in our water ways as owners abandon them when rehoming is impossible – the majority of rescue centres that can cater for these animals (and there are not many out there as it is) are constantly full to capacity.”

Photo: Igors Grinkevics‎

What to do if you spot a terrapin

If you spot a terrapin in our waterways, you should contact your local council for it to be collected.

Clare said: “The best port of call for those finding rogue terrapins would definitely be a three pronged approach between the RSPCA, Environment Agency and the animal warden at the City of Lincoln Council (or local to wherever the animal is spotted).”